Memory and Obsessions

Indy WordLab Recap

Despite the heavy rain last night, we had what might have been our biggest turnout ever for WordLab. Sarah Layden really knows how to pack ’em in. Layden read the prologue from her forthcoming novel, Trip Through Your Wires, which centered on college students studying abroad in Guanajuato, Mexico. Her prose was simple and reflective, taut as the wires referenced in the title. After reading, she took many questions about her process: building and creating characters, writing every day vs. setting projects aside, working on other projects in the meantime, why she writes. It took Layden about a decade to finish her novel, but members of the audience asked how she ever knows anything is finished. She said a work reaches a point where it’s as finished as it ever will be, and if you think something you’ve written is perfect, well, that’s a bad sign.

Layden’s novel is structured in alternating chapters: one in 1996, one in 2003, and so on. Many people questioned this choice and suggested she write the thing chronologically and save herself a headache. But the structure has been one of the few constants in Layden’s novel, and she’s drawn to it because that’s how she experiences memory: it weaves itself into your present and infuses many of the things you do every day. I think a lot of people can relate to this. For me, not a day goes by that something doesn’t trigger a memory from school or childhood. Or maybe I choose to wear a piece of jewelry that once belonged to my grandmother. If I do, I inevitably remember how her home smelled of mothballs and how that was one of the most inviting scents. So, all that being said: I’m looking forward to Layden’s novel, which comes out in early 2015 from Engine Books.

After taking questions, Layden launched into her prompt. She asked everyone to make a grid of five squares by five squares. In the first column, we had to list five obsessions, either things we ourselves were obsessed with or things we knew others were obsessed with. The next column over was labeled person, then place, then thing, and finally image. We had to work quickly on purpose, no lingering over anything, just seeing what our brains filled in. Each line, once completed, would have a person, place, thing, and image related in some way to that obsession. We were to choose one or two lines and write a piece based on the tension in those obsessions. How do obsessions take you over? How do they come into conflict with other people and their obsessions?


Indy WordLab is held on the first Monday of every month at Indy Reads Books at 911 Mass. Ave. Learn more hereherehere, and here.